The Dublin Report (1976)


I. Introduction

1. The volume recording the Proceedings of the Twelfth World Methodist Conference at Denver, Colorado, August, 18-26, 1971 (ed. Lee F. Tuttle, Nashville & New York: Abingdon Press), was doubtless unique in the history of such reports in devoting a considerable number of its pages to Roman Catholic-Methodist matters. In addition to a personal report by Bishop William R. Cannon on the conversations which had taken place since 1967, and the text of a lengthy address given to the Conference by Cardinal J.G.M. Willebrands, President of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, the book contained the full-scale "Report of the Joint Commission between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council, 1967-70" (pp. 39-68).

2. It is the nature of such a report both to reveal progress and achievement and to point to further areas of study and discussion which have been opened up and defined. The Denver Report,[1] as it has come to be known familiarly among us, did this under six heads: Christianity and the Contemporary World; Spirituality; Christian Home and Family; Eucharist; Ministry; Authority.

3. A final section entitled "The Way Ahead" embodied precise recommendations to the respective authorities about the next stage of the dialogue. A smaller joint Commission was proposed which should have a stimulating and facilitating function over the whole field of Roman Catholic/Methodist relations while its task "in regard to serious theological dialogue should be mainly one of organization, coordination and review".

4. These recommendations were accepted in principle by the authorities and the new Commission met for the first time in Rome in December 1972. Two position papers were read, one from either side, which attempted to set out with some frankness our tasks, our problems and our awareness of our defects. The new style in which the reduced Commission set out to work involved some trial and error. It presupposed also an act of faith - of confidence in a response from Roman Catholics and Methodists in cooperation in many places at national and local levels. In this spirit "A Call to Action" was published at the end of our first meeting. This act of faith has proved only partly justified, but in some instances at least the response looked for has been generous enough to enable the Commission to tackle with varying degrees of thoroughness a good proportion of the list of desirable projects it drew up at its first meeting.

5. The present report, taking the Denver Report as its point of departure, aims to show how this collaboration and the work the Commission has been able itself to do at its four meetings since 1972 have advanced our joint search and mutual understanding. To those whose help has made this advance possible - their names will appear in the course of the report - we are deeply grateful.


II. Common Witness And Salvation Today

6. One of the common concerns of Roman Catholics and Methodists, which emerged in our first series of conversations and was registered in the Denver Report, was for a just analysis of the contemporary situation from the point of view of those who wish to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and announce it to others. What obstacles and what opportunities are offered them in today’s world?

7. The second part of section II of the Report was able to set out eight "Areas of Agreement Which May Serve as Aids to Joint Efforts to Encounter the Contemporary World". These are well worth considering again.[2] The emphasis here, it will be noted, was on agreement not for its own sake but looking toward joint action, and the second series of talks was launched with a "Call to Joint Action" addressed to our respective Churches.

8. Since the Denver Report was written, parallel concern has been manifested widely over the religious field and several other important discussions of it helped to induce us to give it the central place in our second series of conversations. The Denver Conference itself, at which our report was received, issued a call to Methodist churches to join in intensified mission to the world, and passed appropriate concrete resolutions, one of which was that "every effort shall be made to work in concert and in cooperation with other communions and churches".[3]

9. The renewed Roman Catholic/World Methodist Commission first met (December 1972) a few weeks before the World Council of Churches’ Bangkok Conference on Salvation Today, and since some of its members could look forward to being in Bangkok, the Commission decided to appropriate to its own direct study the theme "Common Witness and Salvation Today". Hence papers and reports were prepared for our second meeting which were largely developed out of reflections on Bangkok, and discussion of them represented the first stage of our work on the theme.[4]

10. At this same time it was known that the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church, meeting in Rome in October 1974, would be choosing the theme of Evangelization. In fact, our Commission met for the third time in Venice just after the Synod had begun its sessions. Hence the position papers for the meeting, which had been commissioned at Reuti,[5] were supplemented by a critique of the Synod’s program as set out in its preliminary document. Therefore, in drawing up the present joint statement we have been able to reflect not only on our own papers and discussions but also on the proceedings of the Synod as so far known, and on the work of the World Methodist Council at its Mexico and Jerusalem consultations. These have been referred to directly where it seemed appropriate.

11. We begin by stating briefly five general themes which appear to run through the documents and reports we have examined and which command our joint acceptance:

a) The Church’s calling to witness in word and life to God’s saving work in Christ is fundamental to her being;

b) This witness can be fully effective only when the churches witness together, not out of expediency or for practical convenience but for the sake of the truth being proclaimed and lived;

c) Salvation has individual and social dimensions that must not be separated, involving as it does relationship to God and to fellow-man, and transformation in Christ of both the person and the society which he helps to make up and which shapes him in turn;

d) God’s saving work in Christ is not restricted to Christians but extends also to non-Christian communities and the whole created order;

e) Witness today calls for a re-interpretation of salvation that goes beyond translation into contemporary language and takes account of the many ways in which people now hope and seek for salvation;

f) The church is still commissioned to preach the gospel to all men, in the hope that all may come to know God revealed in Christ.

12. Common usage of the word "salvation" implies that the existence of somebody or something is threatened, that there is a menace or danger from which somebody or something is being saved. In theological terms this menace was long summed up in the phrase "the wrath to come", but in mature Christian thought this "negative" was inseparable from a positive vision of what God’s salvific will, manifest in the reality of Christ’s saving work, meant for man, namely a transformation in the living Christ, begun already in baptism and kindling a hope[6] of eternal transformation for those who held to Christ.

13. If "salvation from" in its more starkly eschatological form has faded in contemporary consciousness, the conditions of contemporary life in which every sort of insecurity looms have thrust it forward again in other forms, just as acutely felt. Today we can distinguish concern for salvation:

a) On the elemental level, where fully one-third of human beings live, salvation means deliverance from the day-to-day threat of failure of the means of survival;

b) On a higher level, salvation means deliverance from the wretchedness of mere subsistence and entry into a fuller human life-work for the unemployed, learning for the illiterate, dignity and power for the despised and downtrodden.

c) On the highest level, salvation means deliverance from those anxieties, that discontent and even despair to which material comfort offers no answer. Indeed we should have to go further and say that man seems so made that obsession with or complacency about the "primary" forms of salvation is self-defeating and likely to threaten that very social and political order in which primary needs are met. Man’s glory is a "divine discontent" which distances these needs by a sense of the transcendent. The point was superbly expressed by the Anglican poet George Herbert:

"Yet let him keep the rest
But keep them with repining restlessness
Let him be rich and wearie, that at least
If goodness lead him not, yet weariness
May tosse him to My breast".

14. The Judeo-Christian message of salvation has never artificially separated these three levels, although its ultimate concern is with the last. The Old Testament shows God’s salvation as concerned, whether for the individual or the nation, with concrete experiences, dangers, afflictions, deprivations, injustices, but culminating with the prophetic emphasis on "salvation for" the kingdom, the peace of God.

15. The Christian message of salvation has always been vulnerable to an interpretation involving rejection of matter, escape from "the world"; but in fact it embraces every human need while transcending it. It affirms eternal life which encompasses yet goes beyond our mortal condition. It finds its ground and hope in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

16. Given a longing for salvation which is as wide as humanity, and the concern of all churches to witness to its true meaning, what in particular can Roman Catholics and Methodists say and do?

17. More than once since 1966, when these conversations began, we have been called to recognize our shared heritage; not just to put an ecumenical veneer on the otherwise unaltered furniture of our separation but to discover the underlying realities on which our churches are founded and to which the common features of our heritage point. Now we must go further and see that, arising out of that shared heritage, there are things that we are impelled to insist on and to do that will contribute to the current debate on Common Witness and Salvation, but more, that will involve us together in the common witness itself:

18. (i) The affirmation of the reality of sin which Roman Catholics and Methodists have traditionally made has never seemed more relevant than today. The weight of sin needs to be seen in all its gravity, against either naive Pelagianism or Promethean humanism, but also without over stressing the trivial. The total picture of human injustice, venality, selfishness, not least where the churches have seemed to condone it, needs to be seen and denounced in the prophetic spirit of the great preachers of history.

19. (ii) But in the same spirit of sober realism the reality and glory of the grace of God, equally central in our traditions, needs to be proclaimed, as answering in truth to all needs of man. There will be liberation only as God’s grace transforms the will of those who exercise power. There will be love only as God’s grace evokes in us response to his initiative of love in Christ. With all our technical resources there will be food enough for all only as God’s grace leads us to responsible parenthood and finally changes our wills so that we are more ready to produce and to share. In the words of the 1974 Synod of Catholic Bishops, union with Christ is the only thing which raises the individual "lost in the ocean of history and the incalculable multitude of humanity" to the challenge of today.

20. (iii) Social concern has been characteristic of the Roman Catholic and Methodist traditions. Today, when care for salvation often manifests itself on only one of the levels mentioned earlier, we need to witness that our social concern is a fruit of faith, and that we test whether salvation at any level is the work of the Holy Spirit by relating it to the teaching of Jesus Christ, God’s saving work made manifest. Such a test must be a moral test of the means employed to achieve the desired end, e.g. in the search for liberation. When unjust power is overwhelming and deaf to persuasion, force may not simply be ruled out, but the spirit of faction and violence remains alien to the Christian’s concern for the poor and oppressed.

21. (iv) A strong missionary impulse is common to us, and recently our churches have publicly recognized both that it must continue and that it must develop new forms of expression. The gospel may well by now have been preached to every corner of the earth, but there have never been so many people living who have never heard of the saving grace of God in Christ. All over the world people are growing up in communities that have not heard, or who have heard and no longer listen, or who follow other voices that speak of salvation.

22. (v) Our traditional shared concern for sanctification has been a source of strength, but we have sometimes (especially where we have been an extra establishment minority) shared also a tendency, contrary to our true traditions, to understand regeneration largely as the new birth of the individual.[7] Thus sanctification has been thought of as limited to the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual life. While maintaining the fundamental importance of personal spirituality, we need to explore the fullest implications of the biblical view of salvation as new creation, so that sanctification will be seen to include the fulfilment of God’s purpose for the whole created order and we shall hear the call to witness together to the responsibility of mankind for the earth which is God’s good creation.

23. Looking outward in this way we must be sensitive to the riches in other living faiths. Even unbelief challenges us to purify our faith. Especially we must be sensitive to the possibilities of preparatio evangelica in the searchings and aspirations of our contemporaries, while recognizing the essential ambiguity of many social, cultural) and ideological movements. A real sensitivity to the gospel and to the world will enable us to be true to our aim as Christians: to help people towards a living faith in Christ within their own society and culture, and not to offer a way of thinking and living as Christians belonging only to our own society. It is essential that above all, our own way of life must reflect faithfully the gospel which we preach. Where it does not, our credibility as Christians is seriously challenged.

24. (vi) If we are to be taken seriously, we must ourselves take seriously the call to unity. Our present series of conversations began with a Call to joint Action - "What can Roman Catholics and Methodists do together?" The discernment of common traditions and concerns by a few does not of itself produce joint action on any significant scale. Our people must share the discernment as part of their own Christian commitment which they must see as pointing to unity not division. Catholics might well reflect that Methodism has had from the beginning structural possibilities for healthy and expanding lay participation in evangelism, and be prepared to learn much from this tradition. Methodists, on the other hand, might well feel that concern for lay involvement has most recently been more manifest among Catholics, and this could well be a matter for consultation and further cooperation between us.

25. The tests of the seriousness of our joint concern about salvation and evangelization must be of the practical order pointed to in section VIII of the Denver Report[8] and in the Call to Action of December 1972. These pointed to the need for "serious planning of the education of our churches" and the connected "vital question of communication". Since the Denver assembly we can point gratefully to growth in collaboration at national, regional and local levels, some of which has produced valuable contributions to the present report: there is room for wider and more generous response. We cannot repeat too often the last words of the "Call to Action" we made at our meeting in 1972: "We do not want merely to accumulate paper for our files, but we want to stimulate one another to common action, so that the world which is starving for lack of good news may not through our unnecessary divisions be prevented from receiving the food of the Gospel".


III. Spirituality

26. It has been recognized from the beginning of our dialogue that among the "more solid grounds for affinity" between our two traditions the first was "the central place held in both traditions by the ideal of personal sanctification, growth in holiness through daily life in Christ".[9] This recognition was not voiced in any exclusive or pharisaical spirit, but simply as a fruit of our emergence from a long period of comparative estrangement. Hence section III of the Denver Report[10] was based in the first place on the work of a sub-commission done in accordance with a careful brief given by the joint Commission as a whole.[11]

27. Two or three points may be re-emphasized about this, perhaps the most mature section of the Denver Report:

a) It recognized the need for both an historical and a contemporary treatment, the one complementing the other.

b) It was not seen as unconnected with the preceding section on "Christianity and the Contemporary World", or even as merely complementing it, but as being interwoven with it.

c) It frankly recognized certain lacunae and certain obstacles in our discovered affinity.[12]

d) It offered its own set of practical suggestions.[13]

28. It might be argued that the very first fruit of this practical-minded section was the address given by Cardinal Willebrands at Denver and so generously received there.[14] It was a development of the theme of our shared tradition of concern for holiness which must find a leading place in any bibliography of this dialogue, and its influence on the second phase of our conversations is undoubted.

29. It may at first sight seem disappointing that in the present report we have no substantial addition of our own to offer to what was presented and said at Denver, but must rather point to several examples of work in progress. But the aim of Denver’s words was not simply to provoke more words, nor to boil down everything to committee language; the program offered at Denver - and it was offered not simply to the renewed Commission but to the two world-wide communities - was an exploratory program aimed at mutual enrichment. Spiritual richness like any other, lies partly in variety, and we were reminded at our Venice meeting that in the Catholic Church, however "monolithic" it may have seemed from some points of view, there is a long tradition of rich variety in spirituality - sometimes given institutional form in the various religious congregations, but as often manifesting itself in Christian living at the heart of "the world". Nor did Methodists repudiate the idea of such fruitful variety in their own tradition.

30. Hence it is not surprising that, among the examples we have to report of work in progress in this joint exploration there should be interesting contrasts. Taking them in chronological order we begin with the work of the Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality in America which, based in Evanston, Illinois, brings Catholics (of various spiritual families) into collaboration with Methodists and with some of other traditions in spiritual dialogue and exploration.

31. The Institute organised in 1974 the "Wingspread" conference whose specific aim was to examine the implications of section III of the Denver Report, and the Commission was able to benefit directly from the Institute’s work when the Institute’s Director of Protestant Spirituality, the Methodist Dr. E. W. Gerdes, gave a paper at our Venice meeting and did much to enliven our discussions. Here is one form of collaboration, a continuing one.

32. Another form, and an important one, is represented by the paper, "The Ordained Ministry," which deals with the question of holiness and spirituality. Unfortunately the final draft arrived too late to be considered by the Commission; it is published in Origins, January 22, 1976, and we hope it will be widely read. It is the joint work of the U.S. team appointed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the United Methodist Church, a work which has been going on since 1971. As the authors stress, their limiting of their theme aims at a deepening, not a "clericalist" narrowing of our joint concern with spirituality. The aim is achieved and it is to be hoped that the title will not mislead anyone as to the scope and importance of this very wise joint reflection, which not only contributes to our study of growth in holiness but also enriches our shared ideal of Ministry.[15] The paper seems to the Commission an outstanding example of the kind of work it was charged by the Denver Report to promote.

33. A third form of collaboration, that of an individual and wide-ranging mind from either side, in which a mutual sympathy clearly develops and finds expression, is represented by a paper "Towards a Spirituality for Today", which was commissioned from the Rev. Gordon Wakefield and Fr. Emmanuel Sullivan, S.A. They describe their approach thus: "We propose to take seriously the insistence of the Denver Report that the contemporary situation be regarded and assessed and we would like to lift the discussion out of the old entrenchments and try to discover the essential characteristics of ecumenical spirituality for our time. The questions are not so much ‘what have we in common-where do we differ and what may we learn from each other?’ as ‘what kind of Christian does God want us to be?’" Their discussion of contemporary trends takes place against a background of theology.

34. This paper would have suffered especially from being drained of blood by the clumsy surgery characteristic of committees, and we hope that it will be published so that it also may be widely read. More perhaps than any others, the papers discussed in this section suggest that justice to our dialogue and to our collaborators demands re-addressing our attention to the suggestion made in the Denver Report, Para. 121, "provided the status of papers be clearly established (working papers e.g.) they might be circulated among responsible and qualified people, and summaries made of them might be incorporated in reports."


IV. Christian Home and Family: Inter-Church Marriages

35. The consultation returned to one aspect of this topic at its Venice meeting in 1974, when it discussed a survey it had commissioned from Mons. Purdy of "Discussions between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian Churches on Marriage and the Problems of Mixed Marriages" since 1967. This dealt most fully with the Roman Catholic/Anglican dialogue but also surveyed discussions with the World Council of Churches, Lutherans, Reformed, Methodists, Old Catholics and Orthodox. It also described "changes in legislation and discipline and other official pronouncements which have occurred within the field, and their repercussions on dialogue".

36. The drafters of the fourth section of the Denver Report, which dealt with the theme of Christian Home and Family, thought it relevant to their particular task to conclude by laying stress on the need for greater Roman Catholic/Methodist collaboration and for better exchange of information among local churches. In matters which come home so closely to the faithful in everyday life this emphasis is clearly right.

37. Australian Roman Catholic/Methodist dialogue, having produced as its first fruit a joint statement on baptism 1972-3, turned its attention immediately to the theme of Christian marriage: its meaning and pastoral implications. A statement of 1973-4 dealt

a) with marriage in general, starting from a firm basis in scripture;
b) with mixed marriages;
c) with some practical recommendations.

The Australian statement thus took very seriously the practical implications of that joint pastoral care which was recommended by Matrimonia Mixta and is coming to be seen more and more widely as the most fruitful approach to a problem for which, in a divided church, no perfect solution exists.

38. Since the Denver Report on Christian Home and Family, nothing has occurred that would lead us to qualify the statement that our Churches find "much ground for agreement" about marriage and family life, nor to amend in any significant way the terms in which this agreement is spelled out.[16]

39. It has, however, become increasingly clear that this view that we have in common concerning the sanctity of marriage and its place as the God-given context for sexual relationships, development of family life and basis for stable human society, is being severely challenged and widely disregarded. This widespread rejection of the Christian understanding and practice of marriage serves to emphasize that what differences remain between us (e.g. on the possibility of divorce and re-marriage, and on ways of regulating conception) are far outweighed by what we hold in common, and to remind us that however important it may be to try and settle our differences it is imperative that we witness together to the centrality of marriage in God’s purpose for human community. Such common witness must be seen not as an attempt to hide our disagreements for the sake of ecumenical goodwill but as an urgent necessity if the world at large is to be influenced at all by the ideal and practice of Christian marriage.

40. This same realistic assessment of the widespread disregard of the meaning of marriage must be brought to bear on any consideration of interchurch marriages. These are often spoken of as posing a "problem" in terms of doctrine, ecclesiastical polity and pastoral care. They are in fact a problem to those marrying only if they belong to the small minority within a minority, that is those who are not only church members but also take the responsibilities of membership seriously. Consequently those who do belong to different churches and who seek guidance concerning inter-church marriage should be welcomed for their faithful concern and not chided for posing a problem, especially since they can hardly be held responsible for the division between our churches which is the underlying cause of the problem. Again, this is not to advocate a disregarding of the difficulties nor a weakening of discipline concerning marriage. It is to urge that what we already hold in common should be used as a basis for marriage and family life that reflects the will of God in Christ for human society.

41. As we have noted earlier, the problem of mixed marriages has been treated, always simultaneously with a joint exploration of the theology of marriage, at various levels in dialogue between the Catholic Church and other confessional families notably at international level with the Anglican Communion and in a tripartite consultation with the Lutheran World Federation and the World Reformed Alliance. In the former instance a report has been completed and in the latter it is nearing completion.

42. The Denver Report made alternative recommendations either for a special working party to perform this same task for Roman Catholics and Methodists or "that the World Methodist Council consider the possibility of joining in dialogue in progress on this subject between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Federation of the Reformed Churches".[17]

43. It is now too late for the second alternative, and it seems likely that much treading of the same ground would be avoided if, when the two reports referred to become available, our consultation were to turn its attention to a comparative study of them. This could be of value not simply to our own growth in understanding but to the ecumenical dialogue at large: our discussions in this field have generally revealed a calm approach and a positive emphasis which is not always easily achieved.


V. Moral Questions-Euthanasia

44. While there are differences between Methodists and Roman Catholics on certain moral issues, there is, of course, much that could be affirmed jointly. We all agreed that this subject should be given priority in our future studies together. Unfortunately, an original plan to include moral theology in the present series of talks came to nothing.[18]

45. We were, however, able to consider a statement on euthanasia prepared by the Methodist Division of Social Responsibility and endorsed by the British Methodist Conference of 1974. It seems to provide a good example of a moral question on which we can all agree. After examining the arguments, the statement rejects voluntary euthanasia but recognizes that doctors attempting the adequate control of pain have occasionally to use treatment which has the side effect of shortening life. Examples are given when medical interference to prolong life is inappropriate in the light of the patient’s total situation. Withholding such interference is not euthanasia, which essentially consists of an action aimed at precipitating death.

46. The Catholic members of our joint Commission felt they, too, could wholeheartedly endorse this Methodist statement, especially the positive section on the Christian attitude to death and the pastoral care of the chronic sick and the dying. It is here that the ultimate answer to the problem of euthanasia lies.


VI. The Eucharist

47. Although the subject of the Eucharist was treated somewhat briefly and schematically in the Denver Report, the section (v) did in fact summarize the results of a good deal of discussion both in our annual main meetings of the first series and in colloquia held in between. It was a few weeks after the Denver Conference that the Anglican/Roman Catholic Agreed Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine was completed at Windsor, and this was published at the end of the same year, 1971. This attracted much sympathetic attention from Methodists, and at our own first meeting in Rome in December 1972, we were quickly able to agree on inviting the English Roman Catholic/Methodist Commission[19] to arrange for a study of the Windsor Statement together with section V of the Denver Report, with a view to producing a more complete Roman Catholic/Methodist statement for the present report. We are glad to record our deep gratitude to the English Commission for their acceptance and very thorough carrying out of this task. The first draft we received from them stimulated us to a long discussion at our Venice meeting, in the light of which the English Commission revised their draft. At Bristol we adopted this revision with some changes and it is here set out.


Roman Catholic/Methodist Statement on the Eucharist

48. Roman Catholics and Methodists approach the eucharist without a history of explicit disagreement. Our traditions have indeed developed in separation from each other but not in direct historical conflict. Our churches did not engage in debate on this issue, as in the sixteenth century Catholic and Protestant theologians did both in Britain and in continental Europe.

49. In our conversations we have discovered significant agreement on much that is central in our understanding of the eucharist. This was foreshadowed in the section on the eucharist in the Report of the Joint Commission between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council, 1967-70 (the Denver Report). It is seen also in the large measure of assent that we, both Methodists and Catholics, can give to the Agreed Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine presented by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, 1971 (the Windsor Statement). There remain, of course, matters of varying importance where we do not agree or where we express ourselves differently.

50. Our churches have used different language about the eucharist, even in their words for the service itself. A Roman Catholic naturally refers to the Mass, a Methodist to the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. We use the word eucharist here as the one that has widest acceptance in the church as a whole, both in the past and in the present.

51. One major difficulty in comparing the Roman Catholic and Methodist eucharistic teaching lies in the fact that in the Methodist Church there has not been any historical reason for issuing a comprehensive doctrinal statement on the eucharist. The nearest equivalent to such a statement lies in the hymns and sermons of the Wesleys. Methodist practice and theology often fall short of those of the Wesleys but that does not alter their unique importance for Methodists. In recent years moreover there has been a notable recovery of eucharistic faith and practice among Methodists, with a growing sense that the fullness of Christian worship includes both word and sacrament. Similarly among Roman Catholics there has been a renewal in the theology and practice of the ministry of the word. These developments have resulted in a remarkable convergence, so that at no other time has the worshipping life of Methodists and Roman Catholics had so much in common.

52. In a full statement we should want to place the eucharist in a broad theological context, for it relates to the whole of Christian doctrine, and focuses Christian faith and life. The following affirmations, however, express our common mind:

a) The eucharist as a sacrament of the gospel is the fullest presentation of God’s love in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit;

b) Through it God meets us here and now in his forgiving and self-giving love. It is the commemoration of the sacrificial death and resurrection in Christ, which is the climax of the whole action of God in creation and salvation;

c) It expresses our response - both personal and corporate - to God’s initiative in a sacrifice not only of praise and thanksgiving, but also of the glad surrender of our lives to God and to his service. Thus we are united with Christ in his joyful and obedient self-offering to the Father and his victory over death;

d) It is our response of faith and love whereby We receive his gift of himself and are renewed as members of his body, that We may be the focus of his presence and the agents of his mission to the world;

e) It is the pointing to and the anticipation of his final triumph and it is our vision of that hope and our sharing in that victory.

53. Eucharistic debate has often centered in the sacrifice of Christ and the presence of Christ. Both the Denver Report and the Windsor Statement give their attention chiefly to these two matters. We do the same.


54. The Presence of Christ

We gladly re-affirm the points of agreement in the Denver Report about the real presence.[20] They may be summarized in this way: Christ, in the fullness of his being, human and divine, is present in the eucharist; this presence does not depend on the experience of the communicant, but it is only by faith that We become aware of it. This is a distinctive mode of the presence of Christ; it is mediated through the sacred elements of bread and wine, which within the eucharist are efficacious signs of the body and blood of Christ.

55. We rejoice also in the similar affirmations of the Windsor Statement, such as:

a) "Christ is present and active, in various ways, in the entire eucharistic celebration";[21]

b) "Communion with Christ in the eucharist presupposes his true presence, effectually signified by the bread and wine..."[22]

56. The Denver Report raises the question of the contrast often made between Christ’s presence in the eucharist and his presence in other means of grace. This contrast, however, is somewhat misleading. We would not wish to set word and sacrament over against one another. While there are different emphases, we both affirm that wherever Christ is present he is present in his fullness.

57. Methodists, like Roman Catholics, believe that when they receive the elements at the eucharist they do indeed partake by faith of Christ’s body and blood, and in this sense Methodists affirm the real presence of Christ thus mediated to them: Roman Catholics, like Methodists, affirm the presence of Christ in the proclamation of the gospel and in the other sacraments.

58. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican II, says "...Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations". Then after speaking of his presence in the eucharist and in baptism, it continues, "He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the church. He is present finally when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: ‘Where two or three are gathered together for my sake, there am I in the midst of them’ (Mt 18, 20)".[23] This setting of the eucharistic presence in a wider context finds an echo in the Windsor Statement, which speaks of the Lord "who through the proclaimed word invites his people to his table..."[24]

59. The chief point of difference concerns the question of the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Roman Catholics affirm that the physical and chemical composition of the bread and wine remain unchanged, but that their inner reality is that of the body and blood of Christ. Methodists could use such expressions from the Windsor Statement as "mysterious and radical change... in the inner reality of the elements"[25] or "become his body and blood"[26] only in the sense that the bread and wine acquire an additional significance as effectual signs of the body and blood of Christ. They do not, however, consider this change to be of such a nature that the bread and wine cease to be bread and vine.

60. Hence the question arises whether the Methodist way of understanding the change sufficiently resembles the Roman Catholic way of understanding it, and in particular whether the "significance" of the elements can be equated with their "inner reality".

61. The Roman Catholic practice of reservation has the bringing of communion to the sick as its primary and original purpose. Adoration of Christ present in the elements is a secondary end. Both ends have their foundation in belief in the real presence. Methodists do not reserve the elements but reverently dispose of them.


62. The Sacrifice of Christ

The Denver Report records four points of agreement on the eucharist as sacrifice and no points of disagreement. Our conversations have revealed certain differences in language and emphasis, although we have a clear measure of agreement.

63. We are one in affirming that "The Eucharist is the celebration of Christ’s full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, offered once and for all, for the whole world"[27] It is a memorial (anamnesis). It is not a mere calling to mind of a past event or of its significance, but the Church’s effectual proclamation of God’s mighty acts.[28] Some would wish to link this dynamic view not with "a re-enactment of Christ’s triumphant sacrifice",[29] but with Christ’s being present and bringing with him all the benefits of his once-for-all sacrifice for us.

64. The term sacrifice is not used so readily by Methodists as by Roman Catholics when speaking of the eucharist. The language of sacrifice is more prominent in the hymns of Charles Wesley than in the prayers of the various Methodist communion services. This reflects in some measure the origins of the communion services: the traditional order which is dependent on the service in the Book of Common Prayer (written at a time when sacrifice was a term of controversy) and recent ones which have arisen in the context of the liturgical movement where sacrificial language has been less prominent because of the re-discovery of other related themes. In all this it is important to recognize that in both our churches our belief is not completely reflected in our traditional language or in our practice and piety.

65. When Methodists use sacrificial language it refers first to the sacrifice of Christ once-for-all, second to our pleading of that sacrifice here and now, third to our offering of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and fourth to our sacrifice of ourselves in union with Christ who offered himself to the Father.

66. Roman Catholics can happily accept all these senses of the term, but they are also accustomed to speak of the sacrifice of the Mass as something which the church offers in all ages of her history. They see the eucharist not as another sacrifice adding something to Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice, nor as a repetition of it, but as making present in a sacramental way the same sacrifice. For some Methodists such language would imply that Christ is still being sacrificed. Methodists prefer to say that Christ has offered one sacrifice for sins and now lives to make intercession for us, so that we in union with him can offer ourselves to the Father, making his sacrificial death our only plea.

67. We have here a larger measure of agreement than we had expected. The obstacle to further agreement is at least in part the difference of language in our separate traditions.


Eucharistic Sharing

68. The Denver Report calls for further study of the relation between eucharistic union and ecclesiastical fellowship.[30] About inter-communion it says, "In Methodism any Christian who can conscientiously accept the invitation is welcomed to the Lord’s table".[31] Certainly Methodists welcome to the Lord’s table baptised communicant members of other communions who desire to come to it. But this does not mean that Methodism historically accepted or now universally accepts the method whereby an open invitation is given to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ (irrespective of church membership), although such an invitation is often given. To receive the communion is the duty and privilege of full members of the Methodist Church. The question how far this should be extended to children who have not yet been received into full membership or confirmed is at present being considered. Nor would Methodists think it fitting for Christians to receive communion in churches of any denomination at random, for communion with Christ is linked with membership of a local church.

69. The present Roman Catholic discipline permits the access to the sacraments when in danger of death or in serious spiritual need of the eucharist, if "the separated brother has no access to a minister of his own Communion and spontaneously asks a Catholic priest for the sacraments so long as he declares a faith in these sacraments in harmony with (consentaneam) that of the Church and is rightly disposed".[32] In these cases the judge of this need must be the diocesan bishop or the Episcopal Conference.

70. The phrase "a faith in harmony with that of the Church" has been officially explained by this sentence: "This faith is not limited to a mere affirmation of the ‘real presence’ in the Eucharist, but implies the doctrine of the Eucharist as taught in the Catholic Church".[33] Whatever is required in exceptional cases would also be required for more general eucharistic sharing. A Roman Catholic in similar need may not ask for those sacraments except from a minister who has been validly ordained in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church.[34]

71. It is because of the central place which the eucharist has in Roman Catholic doctrine and practice that Roman Catholics require a comparison of the eucharistic doctrines held in the two churches. We are aware of some difficulty here. Roman Catholic doctrines have been expressed in detailed formulations; but it is not always easy to discern the essential doctrines in the historically conditioned and sometimes replaceable formulations in which they have been handed down. Methodist doctrine has received little official formulation and exists rather as an undefined tradition. Methodists do not celebrate the eucharist as frequently as Roman Catholics, although in many places the service is now regaining a central place.

72. In this sacrament Roman Catholics and Methodists alike intend to do what Christ institutes and what the church does. Moreover we have in common our acceptance of the Christian faith as expressed in the Bible and in the historic creeds, and in particular a large measure of agreement about the meaning of the eucharist. We both acknowledge that our words cannot adequately express the joy and wonder that we experience in our celebration of the eucharist.



73. In the eucharist we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. We bring closer the day when God will be "all in all" (1 Cor 15, 28). The eucharist makes God’s kingdom to come in the world, in our churches, in ourselves. It builds up the church as the community of reconciliation dedicated to the service and salvation of mankind.

74. The considerable degree of consensus reached in this statement does not conceal differences of approach. We hope that further developments in eucharistic worship and doctrine in both churches in the next few years will reveal an even greater resemblance and thus bring closer the union for which we all pray.


VII. Ministry

75. The history of our work since Denver in this field follows very much the same pattern as with the Eucharist. The Anglican/Roman Catholic Agreed Statement on the Doctrine of Ministry, entitled "Ministry and Ordination", was completed at Canterbury in 1973 and published in 1974[35]. Again the English Roman Catholic/Methodist Commission generously accepted our invitation to examine the Canterbury Statement together with section VI of the Denver Report, and draw up a fresh statement. This they were able to let us have in time for our Bristol meeting and with such emendations as we there made it is embodied in the present report.


The Ministry: A Joint Roman Catholic-Methodist Statement

76. The discussion of eucharist inevitably involves a discussion of ministry, and the Denver Report recorded a number of areas of agreement on this theme, together with certain problems for further study.[36] Since then the subject has also been treated by the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission in its report, Ministry and Ordination. We take up some of these questions afresh in what follows.


Our Common Understanding

77. Despite obvious outward differences we have in large measure a common understanding of ministry. The fundamental ministry is Christ’s own ministry, whose goal is to reconcile all people to God and to each other and to bring them into a new community in which they can grow together to their full freedom as children of God. This ministry was focused in Christ’s life and death and resurrection. It did not end with his life on earth, but by the power of the Spirit continues now in and through his church. Christ still chooses and equips people for his ministry, just as he did in the beginning.

78. In both our churches we affirm that sharing in Christ’s ministry is a gift, for it depends entirely on God’s initiative in calling and enabling and not on human choice and capacity. It is moreover a ministry exercised from within the church, which itself tests and confirms the call, prays for the gift of the Spirit, and sets apart the person called for this ministry.

79. The person called by God and ordained by the church is commissioned to a lifelong ministry. It is a ministry to the church and to the world. In both directions it is the ministry of Christ himself, whose representative the minister is.

80. The ordained minister, although his task may be different from that of others, does not work in isolation, but in cooperation with other ministries given to the church. Indeed all members of the church by their Christian vocation have a gift from God of ministry. They exercise this within the church and also in their life, their work, their family and all their relationships; and the Spirit bestows on them the gifts which are necessary for the fulfilment of this ministry. The nature of every Christian ministry is to serve and its goal is to build up in love.


Apostolic Ministry

81. The ministry of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit is continued in the power of the same Spirit in and by the ministry of the whole people of God. Within the ministry of the whole church we speak here primarily of the special ministry of those who are ordained, for whom both Methodists and Roman Catholics use the term minister (for Methodists it is the usual term).

82. The ordained ministry is given to the church by God, and the apostles were the first "ministers of the gospel". They were commissioned by Christ himself, and each ordained minister in his turn receives through the church at his ordination the commission of Christ. Thus this ministry has existed from New Testament times until now.

83. Though the words bishop, presbyter and deacon are to be found in the New Testament, the New Testament nowhere speaks of a three-fold ministry of bishop, presbyter and deacon. Gradually the threefold ministry of bishop, presbyter and deacon developed. The details are obscure, but that it did develop in the sub-apostolic age is certain, and by the end of the second century the process of development was virtually complete through the church at large.

84. We all agree that the church’s apostolicity involves continuous faithfulness in doctrine, ministry, sacrament and life to the teaching of the New Testament. In considering the ordained ministry of another church we use this faithfulness as our criterion, but we differ in the account we give of apostolic succession.

85. For Roman Catholics the graded three-fold ministry is derived from the teaching of the New Testament through the living tradition of the church. True succession in ministry is guaranteed only by episcopal laying-on of hands in historical succession and authentic transmission of the faith within the apostolic college.

86. Methodists hold that the New Testament does not lay down any one form of ministry as binding for all times and places, and therefore the single form of ministry which British Methodists and other nonepiscopal churches have is at least as consonant with the presbyter-bishops of the New Testament as the three-fold ministry is. Methodists have no difficulty in accepting as true ministries those which emerged at the Reformation and in the eighteenth century, so long as they are faithful to New Testament ministry. They accept, however, the appropriateness of the three-fold ministry of other churches or for a united church. British Methodists affirmed it in the Churches of South India and North India and in the Anglican Methodist Scheme of Union. The United Methodist Church of the U.S.A. and most of the churches which stem from it indeed have the three-fold ministry.[37]

87. Moreover Methodists, both British and American, preserve a form of ministerial succession in practice and can regard a succession of ordination from the earliest times as a valuable symbol of the church’s continuity with the church of the New Testament, though they would not use it as a criterion.

88. Roman Catholics and Methodists agree that episcope (pastoral care and oversight) belongs essentially to the ordained ministry. Such episcope is exercised in different ways in their churches, but in each case it is carefully ordered with the purpose of the building-up and discipline of the faithful, the training of the young, the maintenance of the unity and peace of the church, and in the planning and direction of mission and evangelism.

89. The ministerial structures of the two churches differ, but in both of them the collegial and individual aspect of the ordained ministry are closely related. In the Roman Catholic Church with its three-fold ministry the bishop exercises the fullness of the ordained ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral care. He alone has the power of ordaining and the overall responsibility of teaching and governing, but he is related to the whole church as a member of the college of bishops, of which the Pope is head, and as pastor of his own people shares the ministry with presbyters and deacons.

90. Similarly in American Methodism, which also has a three-fold ministry, membership in the annual conference (as an ordained elder) is primary, and all ministers have full and equal ministerial status. The bishop, as a member of the Council of Bishops, has responsibility for general oversight of the life of the church and possesses the power to ordain, but in this and all other matters he acts in conjunction with the conference.

91. In British Methodism, which has only one order of ministry and thus especially expresses the brotherhood of the ministry, each minister, equally with all his fellow-ministers, possesses the fullness of ministry; such functions as in many churches are exercised by bishops belong to the conference, which in part delegates them to the President of the Conference, the chairmen of the districts and the superintendents of the circuits.



92. Our churches have used the word priesthood in different ways and this throws light on the difference of emphasis in our understanding of the Christian ministry. Methodists have used it most naturally of the priesthood of the whole church, Roman Catholics of the priesthood of the ordained ministry.

93. This difference of emphasis obscures a great deal that is common in our thinking about priesthood. The New Testament uses the word priest of Christ, but never of ordained ministers. Moreover when the Letter to the Hebrews (e.g. 7, 26) speaks of Christ as the high priest (archiereus) it describes him as accomplishing for mankind something which the priesthood of the old covenant failed to accomplish and to which no human priesthood can add anything. In that sense Christ’s priesthood is the end of all human priesthood.

94. The New Testament also speaks of the church as a priesthood (e.g. 1 Peter 2, 5) and of all members of the Christian community as priests (e.g. Rev 1, 6). Christians offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and the sacrifice of their lives (Hebrews 13, 15-16) and they proclaim what God himself has done (1 Peter 2, 9).

95. Within the New Testament priestly language is also used of the exercise of a particular ministry, as when Paul describes his preaching as a priestly service (Rom 15, 16). But the few such references do not use the word priest (hiereus) of an individual ordained minister.

96. By the end of the second century the term priest (hiereus) came to be used of ministers, although it was used first of bishops rather than presbyters. Gradually the ministry exercised was described more and more as a priesthood. In particular the eucharist was referred to as a sacrifice which the priest offered.

97. We both see the central act of the ordained ministry as president at the eucharist in which the ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral care is perfected. Roman Catholics affirm that in the way the ordained minister represents Christ to the body of the faithful he is a priest in a sense in which other Christians are not. The Second Vatican Council stated, however, that "Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated".[38] Each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ.



98. Roman Catholics and Methodists agree that by ordination a new and permanent relationship with Christ and his church is established. The ordained minister is called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be the representative person who focuses in his ministry the manifold ministries of the whole church. He is a sign of the gospel and of the oneness of Christ’s church, both to the church and to the world; an ambassador of Christ who bids men to be reconciled to God and declares to them the forgiveness of sins; a priest who embodies the priesthood of all believers in which he shares, and by his ministry serves and sustains it.

99. Roman Catholics affirm that orders are indelible. Through the sacrament of orders, the ordained minister is sealed by the Holy Spirit and configured to Christ the Priest; he receives a permanent gift which empowers him to preach the word of God with authority, to preside at the eucharist and to absolve sinners in the name of the church. In the Roman Catholic Church only those who are ordained to the priesthood are entitled to preside at the eucharist.

100. Methodists do not normally speak of the indelibility of ordination. But in the Methodist Church, if a minister resigns from the exercise of his ministry in full connection[39] with the conference, or is suspended or dismissed from it, and is later authorized to resume it, his ordination is not repeated, and his orders are in this sense irremovable.

101. For Methodists also the rule is that it is ordained ministers who preside at the eucharist. "The eucharist, which sacramentally expresses the whole gospel, is the representative act of the whole Church, and it is fitting that the representative person should preside".[40] But this does not imply that a eucharist is not valid unless an ordained minister presides, and the rule is therefore held to admit exceptions, when the conference recognizes a situation in which members of the church are in danger of being deprived of the eucharist, because there are no ordained ministers in their neighborhood, and consequently grants a dispensation to a layman (in a particular area for a definite period of time) to preside at the eucharist. This is of rare occurrence, and it is a practice which is constantly under review.

102. The Roman Catholic Church, in keeping with her traditional practice, does not ordain women to the priesthood. Methodists can find no theological objection to the ordination of women. They hold that God has manifestly called women as well as men to the ministry of word and sacraments, therefore they ordain them.



103. We have elsewhere welcomed An Agreed Statement of Eucharistic Doctrine by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and we are delighted now to welcome the statement on Ministry and Ordination. With much of it we are in agreement, as will be seen by what we ourselves have written. We especially appreciate the fine exposition of scripture and the way in which the ministry is set in the context of Christ’s ministry and the ministry of the whole church. However, the place given to scripture and the understanding of the ministry lead Methodists to question the close parallel made between the formation of the canon of scripture and the emergence of the threefold ministry[41] and to seek clarification of the statement that the Christian ministry "belongs to another realm of the gifts of the Spirit".[42]

104. Our conversations together and our joint statement indicate a number of differences between Methodists and Roman Catholics. Some of them are differences simply of form or emphasis or language. Thus we both affirm the need for oversight, but we embody it in different forms. We both speak of minister as apostolic, but we do it with a different emphasis. We both use the term ministry, but Roman Catholics commonly use the term priesthood. It remains to be seen whether at those points where the differences seem to be substantial they are indeed so. The crucial examples are the threefold ministry and the apostolic succession. Methodists are not in principle opposed to the ministry’s being in the threefold form or in the historical succession. But they do not consider either of these to be necessary for the church or for the minister (in fact all Methodists preserve a form of ministerial succession and most Methodists have a threefold form of ministry).

105. We live in a time when members of both our churches have grown in mutual understanding and regard in common witness and service. We rejoice in this. We rejoice equally in the growing number of ways in which ministers have been able to work together in the proclamation of the gospel, in the care of Christian people, and in the struggle to create a more just and compassionate society. It is our hope that the call from God to serve in the ministry, which has been tested and confirmed by our churches in their separation, may find its fulfilment as they minister together both in the church and in the world.


VIII. Authority

106. Section VII of the Denver Report began with these words, "Problems connected with authority have exercised the Commission from the beginning of our conversations, and have cropped up during our discussions of other themes, e.g. ministry, eucharist. We do not feel that our direct discussions on this theme have been more than exploratory... discussions on this subject will be a necessary item on any future agenda of Roman Catholic/Methodist conversation".[43]

107. Since Denver we have not been oblivious of this necessity, but unfortunately this field is the one in which we suffered most delay in enlisting the kind of cooperation on which our general plan of work depended.[44] It is perhaps understandable that no one should be eager to embark lightly on so difficult a subject, but in the end it was yet again the English joint commission that came to the rescue. By the time they did so, it was too late to have any reasonable expectation of material in a form suitable to be included here, though what we have seen (especially a paper on "Authority in Doctrine", by the Rev. Rupert Davies) suggests that yet another valuable contribution to the dialogue is in prospect. This paper and section VII of the Denver Report both justify the hope that Roman Catholic/Methodist discussion has a distinctive contribution to make to a crucial subject - a distinctiveness which will not be compromised if attention is given to parallel discussions elsewhere. Examples of these are the discussions in progress in the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission and the national Lutheran/Roman Catholic dialogue in the U.S.A. It seems clear that the next stage of our conversations will have to take this subject as a principal one on its agenda.


IX. Church Union Negotiations

108. At Reuti in 1973 the Commission voted to invite Dr. Gerard Moede (then at Geneva) to write for it a survey of Methodist participation in church union negotiations and in united churches throughout the world, and to add his reflections on what implications this involvement holds (whether of theology or of policy) for Methodist/Roman Catholic dialogue, with special reference to mutual recognition of ministry.

109. The important and substantial paper furnished by Dr. Moede was discussed at length at the Venice meeting of 1974. Discussion, however, was general, focusing mainly on the merits and demerits of existing unions and plans and at length gravitating towards the more limited topic of the advantages and disadvantages of World Confessional organizations. In the time available for discussion there was no question of justice being done to the many questions raised by the paper, especially those about the implications of our own dialogue. The paper remains as a compelling reminder of unfinished business and it is difficult to see how another five-year period of dialogue would carry conviction if it failed to grapple with these issues.

110. In this connection it is appropriate to record that at the British Methodist Conference of 1975 a motion was proposed and passed with acclamation, "that those appointed by the Methodist Conference to the British Methodist/Roman Catholic conversations be asked - provided the competent Roman Catholic authorities agree - to explore the conditions on which communion might be established between the Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

111. At the first of this second series of conversations, at Rome in December 1972, we agreed that, besides the specific subjects of theological discussion dealt with in sections II-VII of the Denver Report, and again taken up here in the foregoing paragraphs, there were matters mentioned in section VIII of the Denver Report, and especially in Para. 121, which demanded our attention. This paragraph spoke of "the responsibility we feel for serious planning of the education of our churches at lay, ministerial and local levels". The "we" here refers to the Commission, but the responsibility is one which extends further and the Commission’s role can only be a stimulating one.

112. Since the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity has produced a section of its Directorium dealing with Ecumenical Education, we felt that a beginning might be made by eliciting reactions to this from Methodists involved in ministerial training and other forms of religious education. Members of the staff of Queen’s College, Birmingham, England, an ecumenical college containing many Methodists, responded on behalf of British Methodism. The question still remains of primary importance, and there are many places where cooperation on the lines suggested by the Vatican document is in progress. Perhaps it may be hoped that at the Dublin Conference those present who have experience of such cooperation will give an account of it and so interest and encourage others.

113. Another aspect of ecumenical education and of Roman Catholic/Methodist cooperation which we discussed briefly at our first meeting was that of the ecumenical aspects of religious use of the public communications media, and we owe thanks to Fr. Agnellus Andrew of UNDA for reflections and information on this.

114. Number 3 of our "Call to joint Action" of 1973 read as follows: "Churches often publish statements on moral questions. Some of these should be studied together to make explicit their common content. Then the area of agreement can be further explored and a joint witness made to these moral principles".

115. It was our intention to promote a beginning here by arranging for a joint comparative study of the "Social Principles of the United Methodist Church", adopted by the 1972 General Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, and the statement, Moral Questions (London: C.T.S., 1971), put out by the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales, but several attempts in different places to get this done were unsuccessful. The feeling behind this section of the "Call to Action" was that such "denominational" statements often represent a lost ecumenical opportunity - a chance missed of giving a witness in this crucial field which would be all the stronger as a joint witness.

116. Obviously this is no less true now than it was four years ago. Not all such opportunities are neglected, but we would strongly exhort our church leaders to consider always the possibility of joining their voices when such utterances are called for. We have offered above, for example (see Para. 45), a summary of a Methodist statement on euthanasia which the Catholic Medical Quarterly (January 1975) was able to print.

117. As we have explained earlier, the second series of our conversations has had a different method and even involved some act of confidence that the affinities, common concerns and hopes to which the Denver Report had pointed are widely shared in our communities. Hence it is right that some form of balance sheet should be offered as a result of our experience. It would be idle to deny that the general picture presented by our experience is an uneven one - this is clear enough from what has been said above. What is remarkable is that wherever Roman Catholic/Methodist discussion and cooperation takes place at all, the available evidence suggests that the experience is a positive one. We hear nothing of tensions, frustrations and flagging interest, but much of growth in understanding and sympathy.

118. The conclusion to be drawn from this by those who have not had the experience and who still hesitate is simple. Those who have made a start best know that there is still a long road to travel, but that is not a reason for failing to start, nor yet for fainting by the way. We should always be ready for further experiment, for extending our contacts and joint concerns.[45]

119. Neither John Wesley and his followers nor the great apostolic figures of Catholic history were marked by a readiness for discouragement or an unwillingness to swim against the tide. It is our privilege to live in an age when we clearly see the search for unity as integral to the whole witness to Christ, and though that vision is not proof against doubts and discouragement we should not betray the spirit of resolution and confidence which, in Christ, we have inherited from his great servants.


Meetings held at:

Rome, Italy, December 10-14, 1972
Reuti, Switzerland, October 1-5, 1973
Venice, Italy, September 30-October 3, 1974
Bristol, England, September 8-12, 1975




Bishop William R. Cannon, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
Bishop Prince A. Taylor, Jr., Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.A.
The Rev. Raymond George, Bristol, England
Dr. Jose Miguez Bonino, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dr. Lee F. Tuttle, General Secretary, World Methodist Council, Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, U.S.A.


Bishop Michael Bowen, Arundel & Brighton, England
Mons. C. Moeller, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity
Rev. T.F. Stransky, CSP, New York, U.S.A.
Rev. Michael Hurley, S.J., Dublin, Ireland
Mons. W.A. Purdy, Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity
Mons. J. Hamer, OP., attended the 1972 meeting and was subsequently replaced by Mons. C. Moeller.
Dr. Miguez Bonino was able to attend only the 1973 meeting but supplied a paper for the 1974 meeting.
Bishops Cannon and Taylor were prevented from attending the 1975 meeting.
Dr. Robert Nelson of Boston read a paper at the 1973 meeting and stayed for the entire meeting.
Bishop Franz W. Schäfer of Zurich attended the 1972 meeting and some sessions of the 1973 meeting.
Dr. Egon Gerdes and Professor Norman Young attended the 1974 meeting.
Dean Thomas Langford of Duke University, U.S.A., and Dr. Peter Stephens of Wesley College, Bristol, England, attended the 1975 meeting and Professor Gordon Rupp was present for part of the time.

Our thanks are due to the following for hospitality and for help in arranging the meetings: the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Via Cassia, Rome; Bishop Franz W. Schäfer and the staff of Viktoria Hotel, Reuti; Don Germano Pattaro and the Sisters, Casa Cardinal Piazza, Venice; the Principal and staff of Wesley College, Bristol; and for secretarial assistance to: Miss Dorothy Buser, Miss Corinna De Martini, Miss Margaret Orrell.

[Information Service 34 (1977/II) 8-20]



[1] A summary of the Report, edited with an introduction and some useful questions by Canon R. L. Stewart, has been published together with the "Call to Action" of 1972, as a Catholic Truth Society pamphlet, "Catholics and Methodists" (London, 1974, 20 pp.).

[2] Lee F. Tuttle, ed.: Proceedings of the Twelfth World Methodist Conference, Denver, Colorado, August 18-26, 1971 (Nashville & New York: Abingdon), pp. 46-49 (§ 34-50). Hereafter cited as Proceedings.

[3] Proceedings, pp. 35-7.

[4] Dr. Robert Nelson, "Salvation: Illusion Puzzle or Joy?"; Fr. T. Stransky, "A Report on the Bankok Conferente"; Mons. Charles Moeller, "Reflections on Bangkok"; Bishop F. W. Schäfer, "Possible Themes for Dialogue Emerging from Bangkok and Mexico City".

[5] Mons. C. Moeller, "Jesus Christ Frees and Unites"; Fr. Michael Hurley, S.J., "Prevenient Grace and Salvation Today: A Note on John Wesley"; Dr. J. Miguez Bonino, "The Wesleyan Tradition of Conversion in Relation to Salvation Today".

[6] Methodists have characteristically spoken of assurance in this connection, but this should not be seen as a form of certainty which removes the need for hope. Assurance, itself a gift of the Holy Spirit, was no guarantee of perseverance, nor even a necessary accompaniment of saving faith.

[7] Proceedings, p. 49 (§ 47).

[8] Ibid., pp. 66-68. Cf. also Section II, § 49, p. 49; Section III, § 68, p. 53, and Section IV, § 78a, p. 55.

[9] Ibid., §§ 6-7, p. 41.

[10] Ibid., §§ 51-68, pp. 49-53.

[11] Cf. ibid., § 51, p. 49.

[12] Ibid., §§ 62-7, pp. 52-3.

[13] Ibid., § 68, p. 53.

[14] Ibid., pp. 266-76.

[15] Cf. infra, §§ 76-105.

[16] proceedings, §§ 70-71, pp. 53-4.

[17] Ibid., § 74, p. 54.

[18] Cf. infra, § 116.

[19] This Commission, described for convenience here and elsewhere as "English", was set up on the Roman Catholic side by the Ecumenical Commission of England and Wales and on the Methodist side by the Methodist Conference of Great Britain.

[20] Proceedings, § 83, pp. 56-7.

[21] Windsor, September 1971 Agreed Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine (London: SACK, 1972), § 7. Hereafter cited as Windsor.

[22] Ibid., § 6.

[23] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Section 7.

[24] Ibid., § 7.

[25] The Windsor Statement has as its footnote to § 6: "The word transubstantiation is commonly used in the Roman Catholic Church to indicate that God acting in the eucharist effects a change in the inner reality of the elements. The term should be seen as affirming the fact of Christ’s presents and of the mysterious and radical change which takes place. In contemporary Roman Catholic theology it is not understood as explaining how the change takes place".

[26] Windsor, § 6.

[27] Proceedings, § 83, pp. 56-7.

[28] Windsor, § 5.

[29] Proceedings, § 83, pp. 56-?.

[30] Ibid., § 85, p. 58.

[31] Ibid., § 84, p. 58.

[32] The Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity: The Ecumenical Directory I, 55; cf. Instruction Concerning Cases When Other Christians May Be Admitted to Eucharistic Communion in the Catholic Church, 1972, 4b.

[33] The Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity: "A Note about Certain Interpretations of the Instruction Concerning Particular Cases when other Christians may be Admitted to Eucharistic Communion in the Catholic Church", October 17, 1973, 7.

[34] Cf. Ecumenical Directory I 55.

[35] Ministry and Ordination: A Statement on the Doctrine of the Ministry Agreed by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (London: SPCK, 1973). Hereafter cited as Ministry and Ordination.

[36] Proceedings, §§ 87-98 pp. 58-60.

[37] By American Methodism we refer both to the United Methodist Church of the United States of America and to the churches historically related to it. By British Methodism we refer to the British Methodist Church and to the churches derived from it, as well as to the Methodist Church in Ireland.

[38] Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 2, 10.

[39] A Methodist minister is said to be "in full connection with the conference" or "a member of the annual conference" when he is in good standing as a minister and has the rights, privileges and responsibilities, and duties which that involves.

[40] "Statement on Ordination", British Methodist Conference, 1974. Cf. "The central act of worship the Eucharist, is the memorial of that reconciliation and nourishes the church’s life for the fulfilment of its mission". Hence it is right that he who has oversight in the church and is the focus of its unity should preside at the celebration of the Eucharist (Ministry and Ordination, § 12.)

[41] Ministry and Ordination, § 6.

[42] Ibid., § 13.

[43] Proceedings, § 99, p. 60.

[44] Professor Norman Young, to whom the Commission has been indebted for generous help in several fields, did supply us at our 1973 meeting with an interesting reflection on the question from the background of Australian dialogue.

[45] It is most encouraging, for example, to hear, as this report is being prepared, that a joint committee for study and collaboration has been set up between the Catholic Conference of Bishops of Latin America (CELAM) and the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches of Latin America (CIEVIAL) and has already held its first meeting at Cochabamba, Bolivia. One of its avowed aims is collaboration with our international Commission. Another encouraging result of the Commission’s "Call to Action" is the lively book of essays by English Catholics and Methodists, edited by Brian Frost and Leo Pyle, Dissent and Descent (London: Epworth Press, 1975).